Thursday, August 4, 2016

To Artemis

Sunset at Lousi,
The temple of Artemis the Tamer,
Protectress of herds.
Below the edge of the hill, invisible,
The quick, bright bells of sheep traverse northward,
And a grumbling laugh from their shepherd.

Then, at the same slope,
West end of the temple, short edge of the rectangle,
A golden eagle rises into sight,
Just before us – you could throw a rock –, finds a thermal,
Holds, regards the temple,
Rises, wheels to the west, ending
A dark speck against pale orange
At the last edge of sight.

Huntress and the scourge of hunters, she
Turned Actaeon to a stag, her beast, and sent
His own hounds to tear him to pieces.
Orion, whom she loved, she shot to prove her aim,
Tricked by her jealous brother, Apollo,
Then placed his belt and club among the stars.

Adonia, the Aloadae, Agamemnon,
She punished for boasting they could out-hunt her,
For slaying sacred deer,
For pursuing her.
Iphigenia, Agamemnon’s daughter, she snatched from her own altar
And took for a companion,
Substituting a stag before the knife.

According to Callimachus, she took her bow and arrows
From Hephaestus. Her dogs
Were a gift from Pan, whose panic could not reach her.

Preceding the Greeks, echoing Persia’s mother of nature,
Arta, art, arte, “excellent and holy,”
As she was worshipped at Ephesus:
The many-breasted goddess.
Arktos, “bear,” her cult in Attica,
Home to young adepts called the little bears of Artemis,
Who left her to rejoin their cities as women.
Always and everywhere goddess of the forest and mountains,
Who accepted in sacrifice “a holocaust of beasts,”
Whose violence sheltered wild things and herds.
Guide in the coming of age, and always
Parthenos, the one who brings through the new gyne
And stays behind.

Twin sister of Apollo,
Who preceded him in birth,
Does she pause on the narrow, green ledges
Of Obraxos, the rock, two-thousand foot cliff
Over Aiges, the village of the goats,
And consider double-peaked Parnassus, her brother’s home,
Snowy and bare across the Gulf of Corinth?